Spain offers to take in migrant ship amid Italy-Malta stand-off

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Both Italy and Malta had come under increasing global pressure to allow the migrant rescue ship to dock, and they continued to argue over who was responsible.

So Spain announced Monday that it would open the port of Valencia to the ship and the 629 migrants it carried.

Worldwide law requires that rescue vessels not be subject to "undue delay" in their mission and are provided assistance from coastal states "as soon as practicable". Spain receives a tiny percentage of the total asylum claims in Europe, and of those received it accepts less than the European Union average, according to the Spanish Commission for Refugees. "Moreover, the weather conditions are adverse".

A number of Italian cities on the southern coast, including Naples, Palermo and Messina, opposed Salvini's decision and offered to welcome the Aquarius vessel in their ports.

The ship, which has been stranded off the Italian coasts since Sunday, is carrying 629 migrants from Libya, including seven pregnant women and 11 unaccompanied children.

Salvini tweeted "VICTORY" after the two days of confrontation with Malta over the migrants ended with Spain's offer of help.


Italy's hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini insisted that Malta "cannot continue to look the other way when it comes to respecting precise global conventions on the protection of human life".

But Beau said that under maritime law the ship should be allowed to dock in one of the nearest countries, Italy or Malta.

Given that the aid ship had no emergency, Italy chose to appeal to other European countries "so they don't leave Italy alone yet again in managing the migratory flows, which is a phenomenon that is all of Europe's business", Di Maio said in a Facebook post.

Pictures from aboard the Aquarius, which is operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders, showed hundreds of Africans huddled aboard, including a young girl wrapped in a blanket in the arms of a rescue worker.

Headed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the government was inaugurated last week.

Spain unexpectedly offered on Monday to take in the migrants, who were picked up off the Libyan coast over the weekend, but the Aquarius had still not moved more than 16 hours later as the authorities finalize logistics of the trip.


Spain's new Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez agreed to allow the ship to dock in its eastern port of Valencia.

The ship was heading for the Italian port of Messina Sunday when Italian officials ordered it to stop and remain in place, 27 miles west of Malta and 35 miles south west of mainland Italy.

Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in a tweet that "Malta is going to send fresh supplies to the ship".

"People are in distress, are running out of provisions and need help quickly", the United Nations refugee agency said, urging governments to set aside political considerations. "Italy is done bowing its head and obeying". Although there were no immediate emergencies on board, the spokesman said, there were many who needed medical care for chemical burns, hypothermia and dehydration.

Since 2015, thousands of people have fled war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia with Italy and Greece being the main entry points to Europe.


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